Stat of the Week: Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA)
When we talk about offensive statistics, the ones we usually talk about on New English D are wOBA and wRC+ which take the actual value of each offensive action and weight them properly, which OBP and SLG do not do. I encourage you to clink the links and read about those statistics if you have not already done so. However, those two statistics are rate stats and not counting stats. Rate stats tell you how well a player has performed while they’ve been on the field, but counting stats are also good for telling you how much value a player has actually added to his team.
If you have a 150 wRC+, but only have half the plate appearances of someone with a 120 wRC+, you’re not as valuable. You need to be both a good performer and a player who stays healthy and on the field. With that, I’ll introduce Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA) to do just that. Weighted Runs Created (notice the absence of the plus sign) is a similar statistic, but it is just scaled differently. The concept is the same, but let’s stick with wRAA.
wRAA is the offensive component of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and is based on wOBA and is rather simple to calculate if you have all of the necessary numbers.
((wOBA – League Average wOBA)/wOBA scale) * (PA)
A player’s wOBA and PA are pretty obvious and the league average and wOBA scale be found for each season quite easily here. The idea behind this statistic is how many runs a player is worth to his team above average and ten runs is equivalent to one WAR. Here is the full explanation from Fangraphs but the idea is pretty simple. How many runs above average has a player been worth to his team. Average, therefore, is 0 and anything above 10 is good and above 20 is great. It is also a counting stat, so players accumulate them throughout the season as opposed to wRC+ and wOBA which are rate stats.
I generally like rate stats better, but counting stats are an important comparison. Here’s a quick example:
Miguel Cabrera has a 193 wRC+ and .456 wOBA in 325 PA while Matt Tuiasosopo has a 186 wRC+ and .446 wOBA in 88 PA. Cabrera and Tuiasosopo have very similar rate stats, but you can distinguish their value based on how many PA they have using wRAA. Cabrera has 36.9 and Tuiasosopo has 9.3.
I wouldn’t tell you to use wRAA over wRC+ or wOBA, but it is nice to use in tandem if you’re trying to compare which players have been more valuable to their team, but stick with the rate stats if you care about determining who is actually the better player.
A Brief Note on Miguel Cabrera and Matt Tuiasosopo
In studying the Tigers offensive statistics so far, I spent some time looking into Jhonny Peralta, whom I have generally defended, but decided that his extremely good numbers so far (3rd in SS WAR) are driven somewhat by a high BABIP which isn’t very interesting.
Then I thought about writing about why Matt Tuiasosopo, the Tigers RH platoon OF, should play a little more but realized there isn’t really any extra PA for him unless you’re willing to bench Victor Martinez, whom I’m not giving up on at all.
Yet in the course of this perusal of Tuiasosopo’s numbers, something very amazing caught my eye. He’s crushing the ball, but that’s not what I mean. There is a belief, one which I share, that a baseball player can do pretty much anything across 60 plate appearances, or a 10 to 14 day stretch. Tuiasosopo has 51 PA at this moment in time. So I’m not shocked that he’s doing well. I’m shocked at how it compares to someone else on the team. First, for reference, he’s Tui’s line:
.366/.490/.561, 189 wRC+ (51 PA, 2 HR, 7 R, 15 RBI, 19.6% BB)
That’s excellent. It’s a small sample, but it’s excellent. He’s 89% better than league average at the plate so far this year. It won’t continue, but that isn’t the point. The point is that Tuiasosopo’s best 51 PA – his small sample peak – still don’t measure up to Miguel Cabrera’s entire season.
Cabrera’s line, despite covering 197 PA or a quarter of a season rather than 10%, is better. Here it is:
.387/.457/.659, 199 wRC+ (197 PA, 11 HR, 34 R, 47 RBI, 10.7% BB)
Cabrera isn’t getting on base at the same rate as Tuiasosopo, but he’s outslugging him by a lot. Cabrera is 99% better than league average at the plate this year. This post is meant to illustrate how awesome that is. Tuiasosopo is crushing the ball over a small sample and he still isn’t on Cabrera’s 200 PA pace (In Cabrera’s last 55 PA, he’s at 220 wRC+ BTW). That’s nuts.
Miguel Cabrera’s wRC+ for the season is better than Babe Ruth’s career wRC+. Now obviously that won’t continue. He won’t be Babe Ruth (although for a second I did actually think about removing the word “obviously”). But right now he’s outhitting everyone. Even great hitters. Even players who are having the best couple weeks of their lives.
Chris Davis is the next closest qualifier to Cabrera with a 182 wRC+. If you drop the threshold from qualified to 50 PA, Tuiasosopo is as close as anyone gets. To find someone with a higher wRC+ than Cabrera, you have to find your way to Matt Adams’ 43 PA.
And just for fun, even though it isn’t a meaningful number, over the last week Miguel Cabrera leads baseball with a 344 wRC+. It’s a small sample, but that’s just silly.
Miguel Cabrera has the 29th best career wRC+ of all time at 150. This is his peak. It has to be. The last three seasons have been his best three and this one looks like it might top them all. We may be watching one of the best dozen or so hitters of all time at his absolute best.
The Nine Best Tigers Hitters of the Last Decade
The following post is an installment in our weekly The Nine series and pertains solely to the site’s namesake, the Tigers. The question it seeks to answer is who are the best Tigers hitters of the last decade. It doesn’t answer who the best players are, but simply their offense performance. Defense and baserunning are not considered and the minimum PA threshold has been set at 600 PA. This isn’t a counting list that you can conquer by playing 10 seasons reasonably well. As long as you have had at least one full season of plate appearances as a Tiger from 2004 to now, you are eligible. The list is based on the best single offensive catch all metric, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) and does not control for position, sorry Pudge.
9. Andy Dirks (705 PA, 113 wRC+)
It might not seem like it, but across several seasons, Dirks has gathered more than one full season of PA and has performed very well at the plate. It doesn’t stand out, but his .289/.339/.447 career line is solid and he makes up for the lower walk rate with a low strikeout rate. He doesn’t over swing and it yields good results. In just over a full season of PA, he has 19 HR, 105 R, 76 RBI, and 10 SB. Put that together and you have a very nice player by any measure.
8. Victor Martinez (761 PA, 114 wRC+)
Martinez’s numbers are slightly depressed off a slow start to 2013, but his 2011 season was very strong and his career .304/.356/.433 line as a Tiger is quite good. His strikeout rate is under 10% and he’s done a nice job of driving in the batters who get on base ahead of him.
7. Rondell White (898 PA, 114 wRC+)
Does that name ring a bell? White played two seasons in Detroit (04-05) and was actually a pretty decent hitter other than having a low walk rate. He hit .290/.342/.470 as a Tiger and hit 31 HR wearing the Old English D. He wasn’t much in the field or on the bases, but his performance at the plate wasn’t anything at which to sneeze.
6. Curtis Granderson (2896 PA, 115 wRC+)
Granderson spend time in Detroit from 2004-2009 and gave the Tigers some solid offense in addition to his once great defensive chops. His .272/.344/.484 line puts him 6th on this list and 4th among players with more than 1000 PA and his 102 HR ranks fourth among Tigers hitters since 2004.
5. Chris Shelton (899 PA, 117 wRC+)
Yup, that Chris Shelton. He crushed the first two months of 2006 to get himself on this list and he didn’t hang around too long after he started coming back to Earth, so he ended his Tigers tenure with a .281/.348/.477 line with 35 HR. His peak was short, but for six weeks in 2006, Big Red was the man.
4. Carlos Guillen (3384 PA, 120 wRC+)
Guillen was often underrated in his time and often injured in his time as well. When he was on the field, he was a very good offensive player, providing a .297/.366/.476 line from 2004-2011 that included 95 HR as a Tiger. He walked more than league average and struckout far less to go along with his high average and solid power. Man, if only he wasn’t made of a substance more fragile than glass. He played just two seasons of 150+ games in his 8 seasons.
3. Magglio Ordonez (3531 PA, 125 wRC+)
Ordonez’s injuries and dwindling power at the end belie his overall contribution to the Tigers when he was healthy during his stint with the Tigers from 2005-2011. His .312/.373/.476 line was excellent along with 107 HR and a very low strikeout rate (11.9%). He also provided that amazing near MVP season in 2007 in which he hit .363/.434/.595 line good for 170 wRC+. Plus, you know, the homerun in the 2006 ALCS.
2. Prince Fielder (873 PA, 152 wRC+)
Prince is the newest Tiger on this list having just joined the team at the beginning of last season, but his offensive mark has already been made. He’s hit .305/.410/.526 since joining the team and has been near the top of the league in most offensive categories including his 39 HR and walk rate over 13%.
1. Miguel Cabrera (3590 PA, 159 wRC+)
Well, yeah. As a Tiger Cabrera has hit .326/.403/.580 with 191 HR and a 11.3% walk rate. I’m not sure what needs to be said other than that it is entirely possible he is getting better and could pull away from the pack as the next couple of years go on. This will be his 6th season as a Tiger. Let’s break it down list this:
2008-2010: .314/.388/.567, 109 HR, 147 wRC+ in 2017 PA
2011-2013: .341/.423/.597, 82 HR, 173 wRC+ in 1573 PA
Good luck anyone trying to climb to the top of this list. And to AL pitchers.
The Nine Most Average Hitters of the Last Decade
Have you ever sat back and thought about being typical? Average? Middle of the road? Chances are you haven’t, but don’t worry, that’s where I come in. I answer questions you never knew you had and I’m about to do it again.
Have you ever wondered who the most average players are? We talk a lot about league average when we talk about statistics, but we don’t often provide illustrative examples. So let’s do that.
Below are a list of the most average MLB players over the last decade (2004-present) as defined by wRC+. There were 10-20 players who have posted a 100 wRC+ during that time period, so to make The Nine list, you have to have a 100 wRC+ since 2004 and then you have to have the most plate appearances doing so (as of 5/3/2013).
9. Ian Desmond (1964 PA)
8. Mike Jacobs (2140)
7. Marcus Giles (2190)
6. Brad Wilkerson (2412)
5. Xavier Nady (2794)
4. Mark Loretta (2885)
3. Coco Crisp (4397)
2. Aaron Hill (4494)
1. Alex Rios (5449)
Normally I write a blurb about each of the items on our The Nine lists, but I’d like to consider this one as a group because it’s more interesting to me. Notice the groupings. Players ranked 5-9 all have between 3 and 5 seasons of plate appearances during this window. They were league average over a span of 3-5 years during a sample of about 10. Crisp and Hill have 7 seasons. Rios has 9. So while these guys are all average by our best single offensive metric, Alex Rios is super average in that he produced average offense over a really long period of time. Let’s look at his career a little bit.
While Rios has been average on average, he has actually never been average in any one season. His most average season was 2008 in which he posted a 108 wRC+. What is kind of amazing is that none of the other guys on this list display a pattern much different from Rios. They vary in the degree to which they deviate from the 100 wRC+ line, but they all deviate a great deal. I haven’t taken the time to go searching for baseball’s most consistently average player, but I will someday. For now, Rios gets the title of baseball’s most average hitter over the last decade, but man, he’s done it in atypical fashion.
Stat of the Week: Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+)
After a break during the offseason, our Stat of the Week series returns today with an important offensive metric know as Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). You can find this metric on Fangraphs with a full explanation here.
Last season I broke down wOBA which is OPS on steroids. The wOBA idea feeds into wRC. What wRC+ tells is how much better a player is than average when it comes to producing runs for his team. Simpler yet, it’s a catch all offensive metric that can be used for easy comparison between players.
Like WAR, this isn’t a perfect tool, but through some calculations based on the historical value of each plate appearance outcome, we can get an estimate of how much value a player brings to his team. League average wRC+ is scaled to 100, meaning that a player with a wRC+ of 120 is 20% better than a league average hitter. wRC+ is also adjusted for park and league effects, so if you play at Petco Park, you get a little boost because the park suppresses offense.
For reference, both Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout posted wRC+ of 166 in 2012. The most average players in 2012 by wRC+ were Brett Lawrie and Rickie Weeks. Let’s look at Lawrie’s line to illustrate. He hit .273/.324/.405 with 11 HR in 536 PA. That looks about right for league average. wRC+ tells us Cabrera was 66% better than that, which makes sense given a .330/.393/.606 line.
You’ll need a big enough sample for wRC+ to tell you anything meaningful in a predictive sense, but as the season wears on take a look at the wRC+ leaderboard to get a sense of who the best offensive contributors are.
I encourage you to go back and read my wOBA breakdown because it stresses the idea that OBP and SLG are improperly weighted when you add them together to get OPS because a double isn’t really worth twice as much as a single. wOBA gives you a better answer to the question OPS tries to answer, and wRC+ scales it to league and park averages.
Go explore wRC+ for yourself and feel free to post any questions you may have. We at New English D are big believers in sabermetrics, not because we want to boil the game down to a spreadsheet, but because we always want more information about the game. More stats and metrics are a great way to learn more about the game and evaluate what you watch.
Skeptical? Here are the best 8 players by wRC+ last season: Cabrera, Trout, Braun, Posey, McCutchen, Fielder, Encarnacion, and Cano. The math might scare you off, but don’t let it. Just learn how to read the output. You don’t have to buy into everything you see on a sabermetric site, but I think that if you try it, you’ll like it. There is a ton you miss by staying with the traditional stats. And who wants to miss baseball?
Calculate it yourself!